X-Men: Days of Future Past Weekend!
Let me start off by saying unlike Godzilla, I have seen every X-Men movie including the Wolverine films. This mini-review/brain dump may include spoilers for all six previous movies. Also, I have no other X-Men experience such as comics or cartoons so my mutant knowledge is limited to the movies only. Fair warning!
My excitement leading up to Days of Future Past has not been a secret for those who know me. It started with the first trailer that was released and I was excited at the prospect of: another X-Men movie, both the new and old cast coming together, time travel, and all the cool new mutants. The idea of James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart playing young and old Xavier seemed like such a fun concept and likewise for Magneto with Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellen. My excitement built up even more when I saw the movie posters portraying Xavier and Magneto, both young and old through the X cut across their faces. My only worry was that the movie might not live up to my lofty X-pectations…
I guess 7 really is a lucky number because this movie is all kinds of awesome! I really enjoyed First Class and the early X-Men movies and this movie is a perfect mash-up of both. We begin with a Sentinel assault on the mutant rebels which looks like it came straight from the pages of a comic book. We are introduced to some new and familiar faces. Of the new mutants, Blink really caught my eye with her awesome portal wielding power. The concept of time travel is introduced to us with a familiar mutant, Kitty Pryde, as she transfers Bishop’s mind into his body a few days in the past. Immediately, all the mutants disappear because as we learn, Bishop has warned the rebels of the attack in the past and has therefore prevented it from happening. I’m not sure where Kitty received this power as it is not explained, and as far as I know, her power is limited to the ability to phase through objects. Even though the origin of this technique is not revealed, the rules are clearly established for the purposes of the film. It was nice knowing the rules because each movie featuring time travel has its own set.
Next, we have the rebels teaming up with Xavier, Wolverine, and the rest of the X-Men. Strikingly, Magneto is with them as well. You know shit has hit the fan if Xavier and Magneto are back on the same team! In this future, mutants have been hunted to the point of extinction as well as any human who might produce mutant offspring. We learn that Xavier has a plan to stop this mutant apocalypse from ever occurring. If only there was a mutant whose mind could survive being sent back in time fifty years… Wolverine, you’re up bub! While he might not seem like the best candidate to convince Xavier and Magneto to work together in the past, the audience is most deeply invested with Hugh Jackman’s character. He’s been in six of the seven movies (including his two solo movies) and even has a cameo in First Class (which is referenced later in the film). I’m not complaining at all, I love Hugh Jackman! What I’m saying is, the Wolverine character doesn’t strike me as the level-headed, leadership type we might need in the past. What he does have in his favor, however, is indominable determination and a (rocking) body in the 70’s.
Skip forward a bit after Wolverine teams up with Xavier and Beast. Young Magneto is imprisoned at the Pentagon and the team needs some help to bust him out. Here we are introduced to another new mutant, Quicksilver! His scenes are some of my favorite in the film and he brings the comedic relief to the movie. I really enjoyed his “time in a bottle” scene where he single-handedly dispatches a room of armed guards during the prison breakout. It’s a great moment of levity in the film that is full of heavy themes such as racial discrimination, national security, and human (mutant) rights. It’s a shame he isn’t featured more in the movie, but maybe he would have undermined the serious tone of the movie.
Okay, so I now I’m going to start gushing over J Law and her incredible portrayal as the shape-shifting villain, Mystique. The character seems to have adopted Magneto’s ruthless agenda all the way and is on a warpath of revenge. Not only has she adopted Magneto’s mutant first cause, she does a great job imitating his James Bond, international espionage act from First Class. Jennifer Lawrence kicks complete ass busting out mutants in Vietnam, seducing a Vietnamese General and assuming his identity at the cease-fire, and her relentless pursuit of Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage). I really enjoy seeing a strong, independent female acting out of her own will, even though her role is temporarily the villain of the film. She does’t need Magneto or Xavier to accomplish her goals. In fact, it is this struggle against what the men in her life want that causes her disenfranchisement with the mutant cause and blinds her to the consequences of her actions.
I have a few thoughts on Peter Dinklage’s performance but I don’t have a great transition so here we go! First of all, the word dwarf was never used in the movie (if I remember correctly). Amongst all these mutants, Trask’s diminutive body seemed downright ordinary. In our world, it’s great to see the progress Hollywood has been able to make because of Dinklage’s success on Game of Thrones. I’m sure if this movie was made even just five years ago, Dinklage wouldn’t have even been considered. It’s a nice parallel to the struggle of the mutants in the film and the real world progress Dinklage is making. Okay, back to the movie. We learn that the exact event that causes the Sentinel-enforced martial law of the future is his assassination at the hands of Mystique. Trask has a fear (even a respect) at the power of the mutants which he believes are so different from humankind. He even goes so far as to classify them as something besides homo-sapiens (I forget the word). It’s interesting that someone with his condition would fear that which is different, rather than embrace it. It’s a cautionary characterization that even the oppressed can act out of fear and hate as well.
Now that Wolverine and Xavier have Magneto in tow, it’s time to stop Mystique. Only, as usual, they have very different ideas about how to accomplish this. Magneto shows his true colors with an all-out assault on Mystique in broad daylight. It takes a combined effort to stop him and Magneto departs on his new quest, to repurpose the Sentinels and destroy anyone who opposes mutants. It seems that even though Trask’s assassination has been thwarted, the future is still unchanged. Some new event must lead humanity to act out of fear and hate with the Sentinel project.
Cut forward a little bit and you have 3 factions. Xavier and Wolverine fighting for the future and peace, Magneto’s quest for mutant domination, and Mystique who just wants revenge against Trask. Rewind a bit, we’re never shown on-screen, but Mystique discovers files in Trask’s office that implicates him in the murder of the other members of Magneto’s Brotherhood (Emma Frost, Azazel, etc.). Mystique is solely acting out of hate and vengeance. Catching a theme here? Now, at the climax of the movie, all three converge at the White House. It seems there is to be a demonstration of the Sentinels. All hell breaks lose as Magneto has airlifted a local stadium to engulf the White House and plans to kill the President and Trask for a televised audience! At the same time, Mystique has disguised as a security guard and infiltrated the demonstration as well. Xavier shows up in time to block her actions telepathically but there is nothing he can do to stop Magneto. Xavier’s hold on Mystique is released when he is pinned under some rubble from Magneto’s air drop. At this point, Mystique and Magneto duke it out. Well, it’s actually rather one-sided because Mystique kicks his butt! It is at this point of the film, where Mystique is finally released from the shackles of Xavier and Magneto that she is free to act out of her own will. Xavier imparts one final message, of love for a girl he regards as a sister and that he was wrong to control her. This message of love and to act out of compassion is a powerful one. Mystique is given her chance at revenge, to act out of hatred and fear, and refuses. It is a powerful message and a great lesson we all can learn.
During the fray, Wolverine has been thrown from the site and submerged underwater, not knowing the outcome. He awakens, unaware to his surroundings or time. It seems he has landed in Xavier’s School, surrounded by the present students and faculty. To my surprise and utter delight, this includes those who had previously fallen in Last Stand! It was great to see Jean and Scott again. The movie had done the improbable, not only had it saved the future, it had fixed the past by creating a brand-new timeline! This is perhaps the most exciting aspect of the film. A clean slate to work with for future sequels! We can forget about the awful X3 and tell new stories without the shackles of seven movies of twisted X-Men canon and warped timeline.
There is an after credits scene, and thanks to my husband, I know who it featured. We see a hooded figure using some sort of power to construct pyramids and a large crowd of humans worshipping him. Apparently, it is the original mutant, Apocalypse. A quick IMDB search shows the next movie will feature this villain in X-Men: Apocalypse. It looks like that movie will give us the First Class cast as opposed to the original. If that’s the case, the ending is bittersweet as we will not see the original cast again most likely. Either way, this movie left me very excited for what’s to come and I can’t wait!